Press Releases

City Hosts Event Celebrating Participatory Democracy And Immigrant Contributions To NYC Civic Life



NEW YORK —  The NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) Chair and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Sayeed and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Commissioner Manuel Castro hosted an event celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month and encouraging people to vote in The People’s Money participatory budgeting process. The People’s Money is an opportunity for all New York City residents 11 and older, regardless of their immigration status, to have a say in how a portion of the city budget is spent. The voting period for the People’s Money process runs from May 1 through June 12.

“Immigrants are vital to New York City’s civic life, and they bring energy, industry and vibrancy to our diverse communities,” said CEC Chair and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Sayeed. “Through the People’s Money participatory budgeting process, open to all residents 11 and older regardless of citizenship status, we are making sure that NYC’s diverse communities, including immigrants, have a say in how to spend a part of the city budget.”

"I am proud to kick off Immigrant Heritage Month 2024 as we recognize the endless contributions of immigrants to our city and spread awareness about the voting phase of NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC)’s Participatory Budget, the first in the nation," said Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro. "This opportunity lets all New Yorkers ages 11 and older, regardless of immigration status, language spoken, or background, be seen, heard, and active in playing a critical part in the democratic process that impacts their communities and reflects their needs."

In addition to giving attendees a chance to vote in the People's Money, the event honored a group of immigrant mothers from Central and Latin America who contributed to the Sunnies art project, which this year’s People’s Money “Play Your Part – Your Money, Your Community, Your Vote” campaign centers. CEC’s Artist in Residence Yazmany Arboleda created the Sunnies, a collection of playful figurines, giant puppets, and inflatables, to create meaningful opportunities for all New Yorkers to participate in the People’s Money process. The immigrant women, identified by community organization Aids for Life International, crafted the Sunny figurines which represent New Yorkers who lead with their hearts and care about their community.

"As NYC’s People's Artist, my work focuses on creating initiatives that center the well-being and sense of community for all New York City residents. It was a rewarding experience to work with these immigrant mothers on the Sunnies project, giving them a sense of belonging in this great city of ours by supporting an initiative that belongs to all New York City residents, the People’s Money participatory budgeting process. The Sunnies represent a NYC where we take care of our most vulnerable while prioritizing dignity and beauty," said NYC’s People's Artist Yazmany Arboleda.

“It was a great experience working on this project, and getting to be part of a process that is open to all residents 11 and older. I call on immigrants like me who cannot vote in elections, to cast a ballot in the People’s Money to decide what projects they want implemented in their community,” said Carmen Canela, one of the immigrant women who worked on the Sunnies project.

CEC works to engage NYC’s diverse communities, including immigrants, in the charter-mandated People’s Money participatory budgeting program. CEC is working with 85 community partners to conduct voter outreach across the five boroughs, with a special focus on Equity Neighborhoods to ensure an inclusive and equitable process, and has made voting accessible online and in person in English and 12 additional languages. 

The voting phase ends June 12th. As of June 4th, over 35,000 residents have voted. After June 12th, ballots will be tabulated, and winning projects will be announced. Implementation of selected projects will begin later this year, by community organizations to be selected through a competitive process.

Through the Sunnies art project, the CEC has galvanized partners and the public at a launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Bronx Week Parade and Festival, and the Queens Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival. Laster this week, CEC and the Sunnies family, including the giant inflatable Mamma Sunny and dancing puppets “Civic” and “Engagement” will be engaging New Yorkers at the following events:

  • June 8: Staten Island Family Fun Day, Clove Lakes Park, 10am-3pm
  • June 9: Brooklyn Puerto Rican Day Parade, Sunset Park, 5pm-9pm

In the first year of the People’s Money, thousands of residents voted to select 46 community projects. The projects address a wide range of needs, including immigrant workers’ rights education, violence prevention, job training, and wellness support for women and low-income families. These projects are being implemented by community-based organizations.



More About “The People's Money”
"The People's Money" is New York City's annual citywide Participatory Budgeting (PB) process, where community members decide how to spend part of the city’s budget. This democratic process is open to all New Yorkers, ages 11 and up, regardless of immigration status. Its goal is to deepen civic trust and engage communities in a process grounded in collective determination. The PB process was passed by citywide referendum in November 2018 as part of broader ballot proposals establishing the Civic Engagement Commission and mandating it to implement a yearly citywide participatory budgeting program.

In the Idea Generation phase, from September through November of 2023, roughly 2,000 project ideas were proposed by New York City residents. The CEC and over 100 partner organizations engaged New Yorkers in more than 440 virtual and in-person workshops across the five boroughs, enabling residents to identify community needs and brainstorm ideas for expense projects through interactive activities. Residents were also able to propose ideas and projects directly on CEC’s online platform.

In the Idea Vetting and Development Phase, January – February 2024, the CEC convened volunteer-based Borough Assembly Committees (BACs) to evaluate submitted ideas against equity and feasibility criteria. A total of 100 residents served on the five BACs, holding weekly sessions that resulted in development of the top project ideas into ballot proposals.

“The People’s Money” was launched by Mayor Eric Adams and the CEC on September 14, 2022. In the first cycle of the citywide participatory budgeting process, a total of 46 community projects were funded with $5M of city funds. Over 100,000 New Yorkers voted to select expense projects that address a wide range of community needs, including mental health, youth programs, food security and nutrition, and vocational training. The winning projects are being implemented by community-based organizations throughout New York City.

To learn more about “The People’s Money,” including the projects being implemented with city funds, visit